Senate amendments: where’d they get the money?


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You may have noticed that the Senate spent more money in their budget amendments yesterday than the House had, or the Governor before them. That’s because they were able to “find” more money available to them to spend (fiscal conservatives, indeed).

How’s that work? Usually in one of four ways:

  • better revenue estimates, such as from increased tax collections thanks to improving economy
  • lower spending forecasts, thanks to cost savings
  • new sources of one-time money
  • cancellation of other spending

As far as we can tell, the Senate employed all four methods in putting together their budget. According to the Dispatch coverage, they are forecasting increased revenue, slightly lower caseloads for the state Medicaid program (ie. cost savings), they find some one-time money by privatizing the Lottery in the 2nd year of the budget and they cancelled $50 million in spending that the House had committed for local government collaboration grants.

Once the Senate finalizes its work, it will join the House in a conference committee process in which each of the three sides (the Governor will be there too, wielding his line-item veto as leverage) horse trading to get more funding for the programs they like and less for those that they don’t. Since politicians want to please everyone — and because the powerful nursing home lobby hasn’t been helped yet — expect them to “find” yet more money as that process moves forward. Keep in mind all this “found” money.

By the way, they like to say Ted Strickland left a $8 billion problem, but every budget you go into with multiple $billions short, because the prior budget used “tricks” like the ones above to come into balance. Yet, every time, Governors and Legislatures magically “find” sufficient funds, thanks to not spending on things you used to, collecting more revenue, or identifying new sources of one-time money. This budget is no different, don’t let them tell you otherwise. And, in the process of putting it together, the Republicans have not proven themselves to be the financial wizards or fiscal conservatives they advertise themselves to be.

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